I genuinely mean it when I say this is the only (standard) vegan mac and cheese recipe you will ever need. It is super cheesy, creamy and saucy, flavorful, and a tiny bit smoky. It’s topped off with buttery, parmesan Italian bread crumbs, giving it that lovely bite of crunch. I am extremely confident in saying that this is one of the most REALISTIC vegan mac and cheeses ever!
Several people have said this tastes exactly like the real thing, but better!
I’ve given this vegan mac and cheese to well over fifty people at this point. Very few of those people are vegan, and every single one of them loved it! And the fact that several of them complimented it on tasting better than the real thing. What a beautiful thing to hear!
Cheese, cheese, and MORE cheese!
Cheddar, smoked gouda, parmesan, and a thick, from scratch, cashew-based cheese sauce all come together to create this decadent, creamy vegan mac and cheese. This dish has got that slight sharp cheddar tang, with a bit of smokiness from the smoked gouda. I think that’s the perfect flavor pair.
Yes, all of these cheeses are vegan.
And yes, vegan cheese honestly has had its fair share of bad reputations. BUT, I can assure you they have come a LONG way with time. Please rest easy knowing that although this mac and cheese is packed full of different vegan cheeses, it doesn’t have that funky, fake cheese taste. I promise! I have chosen these specific cheeses and brands for a reason, so I highly suggest you stick with them if possible. But, if not possible, please check out my “tiparooskis” section of the post for other recommendations!
The recipe you didn’t know you were craving.
The Ultimate, Crunchy, Fried Vegan Mac and Cheese Balls!?! YES, PLEASE! Take your leftover mac and cheese and turn ’em into deep-fried, crunchy balls of deliciousness! You can thank me later!
If you make this vegan mac and cheese, don’t forget to post a picture to Instagram, tag me @chefsummerstorm, and #gardengrub so I can see your recreation!
Realistic, Baked, 4-Cheese Vegan Mac & Cheese
Mac & Cheese
- 3 cups corkscrew pasta + 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 3 hours, drain, rinse, then measure out the 2 cups
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp sweet white miso paste
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 3 tbsp vegan butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups cashew milk, plain, unsweetened
- 1 Daiya Medium Cheddar Style Farmhouse Block, shredded
- 1 Daiya Smoked Gouda Style Farmhouse Block, shredded *See tips below recipe for cheese alternatives
Panko Bread Crumb Topping
- 1 1/2 cups Italian panko breadcrumbs (Read the tip section below the recipe for a homemade Italian panko bread crumb recipe! (Just in case you can't find any vegan store-bought blend!))
- 1/4 cup vegan butter, melted
- One 4 ounce container Follow Your Heart shredded parmesan (Roughly 1 cup)
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Mac & Cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Season a large stockpot of water with 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring it up to a boil. Once it is at a rolling boiling add in the pasta. Give it a one time stir to ensure the pasta isn’t stuck together.
- Once it's back up to a rapid boil, set a timer and cook the pasta for 6 minutes.
- Drain and rinse off the pasta with cold water until the pasta is completely cooled down. Set aside.
- In a high-powered blender, add the soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, miso paste, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper, and blend until extremely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. Set aside.
- Shred your vegan cheese blocks and combine the two to create a blend. Set aside.
- In a large, deep pot, over medium heat, melt the vegan butter.
- Once melted, add in the flour, stir well and continuously, with a wooden spoon, cooking for about 1 1/2 minutes.
- With a whisk, slowly whisk in the cashew milk, about 1/2 a cup at a time. The sauce should be very smooth.
- Once all of the cashew milk has been added, add in that cheese paste we blended from earlier. Whisk together really well until combined.
- Cook the sauce for about 2 minutes or until it begins to bubble.
- Now turn the heat down to medium-low, add 2 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese blend, and whisk it all together. Continue cooking until most of the cheese has melted into the sauce. A little bit of texture is okay.
- Add the cooked pasta in, turn the heat off, and stir very well to coat the pasta evenly in the sauce.
- Add in 1 cup more of the shredded cheese blend and stir well.
- Pour the vegan mac and cheese into an 8×8 inch baking dish of choice, scraping in all of the sauce. With a rubber spatula, flatten the mixture out from corner to corner. *I always place my baking dish on a sheet pan just in case the mac and cheese ooze over.
- Sprinkle evenly on top the last bit of the shredded cheese blend.
Panko Bread Crumb Topping
- In a medium bowl, combine all of the "Panko Bread Crumb Topping" ingredients and mix very well.
- Sprinkle the bread crumb topping evenly onto the mac and cheese, from corner to corner.
How to Bake the Mac & Cheese
- Cover the dish with tin foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- Pull the baking dish from the oven and peel off the tin foil. Place the dish back in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Now, set the broiler to high, and broil for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes… just until the top is crispy and medium golden brown.
Welcome to my tip section of the mac and cheese recipe! Here I provide my top tips to help you perfect the dish. Sometimes, I also give substitute suggestions that I think you may find helpful.
- Here are some other cheese recommendations. I HIGHLY recommend using the cheeses I do in the recipe, but I understand that not everyone can get their hands on the same ones. So, here are a few substitute suggestions for you.
- Can’t find Daiya’s smoked gouda? Swap it out for a block of their Monterey jack and add 15 dots of liquid smoke of your choice. Another idea would be to use instead Follow Your Heart’s Smoked Gouda slices. Chop the slices up into shred-like pieces, and you’re good to go!
- Can’t find Daiya’s Farmhouse Cheese Blocks? Daiya’s Cutting Board Shreds are great, too! I also really love Violife’s and Follow Your Heart’s shreds. These are my three favorite brands of cheese at the moment, and I think any of these substitutions would be delicious!
- Can’t find vegan Italian panko breadcrumbs? I’ve provided a recipe down below. Mix all of the ingredients. This recipe does yield two cups of Italian panko breadcrumbs, so you will have a half-cup leftover after using it on the mac and cheese. Just store the extra in an airtight container and use it for another dish! Don’t forget to then mix in the butter, parmesan, and smoked paprika from the recipe above.
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- Have leftovers!? Turn it into The Ultimate, Crunchy Fried Vegan Mac and Cheese Balls! Make sure to read the “tiparooskis” section of that post to see exactly how. Alternatively, heat the leftovers in a saute pan over medium-low heat, cover, and cook for about 5-8 minutes, or until hot. Or, cover it, pop it back into the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake it for around 15-20 minutes, or until hot.